Leadership by Design: Creating a Point of View

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In a way, the space where we live is an exhibition, a curation of an exact moment in time. As humans, we are constantly assessing the world around us and arranging it to fit our values. But, what factors influence our sense of taste and point of view? What makes something desirable? What methods do designers and leaders apply to contextualize products, information, and experiences people love?

In this episode, Gautam Mukunda speaks with the Head of the Design Lab at Harvard, Dr. Beth Altringer, and the Chair, Art for Europe at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Dr. Frederick Ilchman about the relationship between design and technology, and how shaping taste is a powerful way to lead.

Curating properly means to care for something, to preserve it. It's a rather beautiful calling. You are trying to save the best of the past for the present so we can understand what our future is going to be.
Dr. Frederick Ilchman

Follow @GMukunda on Twitter

Books Referenced:

Arnhem: The Battle for the Bridges, 1944, by Antony Beevor

Stalingrad, by Antony Beevor

Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry, by Leanne Shapton

Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, by Samin Nosrat

The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs, by Karen Page, Andrew Dornenburg

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, by Jesse Schell

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, by Caroline Criado-Perez

Guest Info:

Dr. Frederick Ilchman is an art historian and museum curator. He specializes in Italian Renaissance painting, particularly that of Venice. He’s chair of Art of Europe for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. His acclaimed exhibition, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice (2009), organized with the Musée du Louvre, won several awards. Eager to enlist supporters for his favorite city, he is also the Chairman of Save Venice, the largest non-profit organization specifically devoted to preserving the art and architecture of Venice.

Dr. Beth Ames Altringer is an award-winning designer and runs the Design Lab at Harvard University's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In 2016, The Harvard Crimson recognized her as one of the university’s top 15 professors. Altringer founded the Desirability Lab, which has helped teams at companies like IDEO, Gucci, Puma, IKEA, Disney, Piaggio, Swarovski, and Uber to create more desirable products and services based on behavioral research. When she's not teaching, Altringer is usually in her studio working with flavor data or making art. She built the iOS app, Chef League, an interactive game that lets you learn flavor intuition from chefs, created flavor research software called the Flavor Genome Project, paints for fun, and is a former champion blind taster.

Transcript 

Gautam:

Why do we want what we want and where do we get new ideas? An innovative design researcher and a museum curator with expertise in Renaissance Venice help us understand creativity and taste.

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Gautam:

Stop what you're doing. Look around. Where are you? If you're like most of us, you're at home surrounded by items you've chosen, clothes, books, yoga mat, shoes by the door, a mug of coffee maybe on the table next to the couch. In a way, the space where you live is an exhibition, a curation of this exact moment in time. And the show is about you. Why did you select those shoes, this coffee cup, that desk, and how were they created to appeal to you? The answer is about taste and innovation. What is taste? How can it be cultivated and how can we use it to create products and experiences that people love? Hi, I'm Gautam Mukunda. These are the kinds of questions Beth Altrinker has been asking through her work as a professor and his head of the design lab at Harvard, an innovative interdisciplinary space where researchers investigate what people want and why they want it.

Beth:

We think a lot about how do we study the product choices that people make and then create opportunities for them to learn about themselves through those choices. Products are just decisions. It's one type of decision that we make in our lives. And in aggregate, you can see patterns in these decisions. These are like objects that you could say sort of whisper who we are.

Gautam:

Beth uses the concept of curation to understand people's emotional reactions to objects and the reasons for them. What is it about a thing that makes us feel jealous or desirous or powerful? Curation is also what my second guest thinks about daily. Fredrick [Iltraman 00:03:00]. Is a specialist in Italian Renaissance art and is the chair art for Europe at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. He curated the 2009 prize winning exhibition [foreign language 00:03:09]. Rivals in Renaissance Venice.

Fredrick:

Well, being a museum curator, you are trying to assemble knowledge and what are the sort of turning points or transformations or watersheds. You're trying to make cases visually and you get to do it with actual objects. In my case, I specialize in the 15th, 16th centuries of Italy. Curating properly means to care for something. You actually preserve it. And so you're doing this. It's a rather beautiful calling. You are trying to save the best of the past for the present so we can understand what our future is going to be.

Gautam:

As human beings, we're constantly assessing the world around us and arranging it into things we value and things we don't. As designers and leaders, we can shape the way information on products are appreciated and desired based on how we contextualize them.

Beth:

I think there's a couple of themes in what we're talking about so far. So there's just like curation is this deciding for others and then there's kind of tastes development. So learning to decide for yourself. So you learn the language to describe your sensory experience and then to begin to organize it and through trial and error, what do you like or dislike, and then getting kind of some feedback from a new experience on whether that was true or not. And eventually you kind of develop your own point of view.

Gautam:

And that point of view is so crucial, right? I'm thinking about Steve Jobs at Apple, how his vision, his call to think different, permeates every aspect of the company. Leaders create a vision, communicate it to inspire others, and their teams bring it to life, but it all starts with a point of view. So developing a specific taste is important because it informs how your brand communicates to the world and how the world relates to your brand. So how do we recognize our own tastes? I asked Beth about this, not only because she studies taste as in what people like, but because she studies well, taste like flavor. I'll let her tell you all about it.

Beth:

So we can look at the types of dishes that you like and what is in those dishes, both flavor wise and in terms of the nutritional composition, and we can sometimes see an aggregate from your choices something about you that you might not yet know about yourself. People don't ever learn to read or write in flavor. At best, you learn to copy a recipe from a cookbook, but that doesn't mean that even through repetition that you learn to understand what is happening and what is creating the things that you end up liking or disliking. So you could think of curation as a form of assessing quality, assessing what you like.

Fredrick:

I just think about the kinds of food that a little kid likes, right? Macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly. I mean, they're comforting because they're very simple to understand and there's certain kinds of paintings or sculptures, right? Still life of a group of flowers, right, that are immediately appealing. It's not about being beautiful, but saying something new or saying something in a way that stops you in your tracks, right? Whether it be about war and peace or social justice or famine and injustice or something. There's often a personal message or a political message, not just the end of the piece, but it's also the mean.

Gautam:

Oscar Wilde said, "I have the simplest of tastes. I'm only satisfied with the best, but of course we don't always agree on what the best is. That's why we say taste can't be argued with. It goes all the way back to the Romans who had the same saying. [foreign language 00:06:47]." But just because we can't argue with taste doesn't mean that it can't be shaped or even improved. So how can we learn to recognize and develop a more nuance to discern them? How do we start at mac and cheese and grow into black truffle and burrata tortellini? Beth's love of taste led her into the world of competitive wine tasting, a place where she developed her own palette as well as way of looking at flavor. So I asked her, "How has she learned to educate her senses of both literal and metaphoric taste?"

Beth:

I actually feel like I might've learned almost as much as a competitive wine taster about design as I learned in my design education. And the reason is because it's structured really differently. These are blind tasting competitions and you're given a flight of liquid in the glass. You basically can only guess what the wine is from sensory cues. So you have your visual cues of the color and viscosity and whether they're bubbles or not. You have cues from the smell of it and cues from the taste of it. And you have to guess the country, region, sub-region, year of the varietal, what varietal it is, and even the percentages, if it's a blend. And some competitions even go down to the Chateau level, your terminology for the different ways that you could describe an experience.

Beth:

And then you study what is effectively like an encyclopedia of wine information and then you're matching what could this not be or what could this be? And I think if I had never studied that, I wouldn't have been able to see that that is true in most subjective areas. That if you do the training, you would eventually develop the ability to effectively blind taste fashion items. Where does that particular stitch come from or tile or architecture, et cetera?

Fredrick:

Beth, that's very impressive, just that level of specificity and realizing that there are so many different factors being tested for in the art history world, particularly with old master paintings. What I deal with, someone will bring a painting that's painted say on wood around 1450 and they hope it's a Frangelico. And then if it's not quite as good as a Frangelico, does it mean that he did it on an off day or was it done maybe by one of his apprentices or someone learning from him actually not trained by Frangelico but emulating him kind of loosely? If it's got some of the characteristics but seems quite off, could it be repainted or maybe even outright forgery, but that is nothing like the wind thing you described in part because there's a big advantage. You can use another medium, ie photography to memorize or to study visual arts, right? I can study building, sculptures, prints, et cetera, from replicates of them. There is not an equivalent with wine.

Beth:

It's true. Yeah, that's a really good point. We're trying to work on how you would make it possible to learn basically expert intuition faster, right, because people who compete in these types of things or who go on to become sommelier or chefs, often it's a decade or so of trial and error based training. There's no faster way to learn. And so there is this question that I'm exploring in my work these days of could we train through visuals? Could we teach taste in the flavor sense through visual interactive media? And it's kind of an open question actually.

Gautam:

Using visuals to understand taste strikes me as akin to synesthesia, a condition where senses overlap with each other. Someone with synesthesia can see music or taste numbers. Synesthesia can be a powerful spirit of creativity. Billy Joel, Pharrell Williams, and Nikola Tesla are all examples. Vincent van Gogh probably had it too. But back to what Beth said about developing expert intuition, we like what we like. But if we use trial and error as a form of deliberate practice by maintaining the same levels of detailed attention that Beth and Fredrick bring to their work, we can cultivate a point of view and then communicate it to others. If you think about it, that's what curating for others really is. Often for designers, it means creating products that people want. I asked Beth how a designer would do exactly that. How do you cultivate desirability in a design?

Beth:

So you need to make it easy to notice the things that you're hoping so it's that someone will focus on. And then there's the moment of fully experiencing it and possibly learning from it. And then we look at can it simplify your ability to experience positive feelings? And we think about that mostly in terms of can it inspire you, make you feel optimistic about the future, and can we simplify your ability to take action?

Gautam:

And Fredrick designs exhibitions, curating Renaissance and other types of art. I asked him the same question.

Fredrick:

I really think of them as a kind of performance. There's the two words we have in English are exhibition and show, right? Exhibition though sounds a little bit didactic, right, like mechanical implements for the farm, agricultural. It sounds scientific almost an exhibition. Whereas a show sounds really fun, right? You think of a a play or an opera or the parade or a Broadway theater. Those are a show. And so to that degree, I like to have a sense that there is an introduction and you come in and I often dim the lights a bit in the first room to let people know that something's about to begin like you would have in a theater.

Fredrick:

And then there's a sense of sort of exposition and variation. And then one space usually in the middle of that is really often very large with a lot of big art or makes a big sort of statement about rarity or scale. And then the ending often can be [inaudible 00:12:48]. It can kind of poignant or really grand. And those are kinds of experiences you might have listening to a symphony or watching a play or watching a film.

Gautam:

But curation also means exclusion. What doesn't fit in this show? What has to be discarded? Strunk and White's most famous advice in their book Elements of Style was the simplest. Omit needless words. Just like museum curators, user interface, designers, writers, even podcast producers, anyone doing creative work needs to make sure that they are not overwhelming the user with too much information.

Fredrick:

I also of course have many curators realize that a certain work of art isn't really being seen in a good context, right? It's kind of shown up by comparison. The other work of art's greater, more interesting makes the first one look old fashioned or in poor condition. And so part of doing an exhibition or installing a gallery in an art museum is not so much just knowing what to put in, but knowing what to take out.

Gautam:

I really liked what Fredrick said about user's experience, how people move through the space of a museum show or engage with a product must be considered in its design. This comes up in Beth's work as well. I asked her where she has seen this idea of the user experience affecting desirability.

Beth:

Betty Crocker, the original cake mix box, you only needed to add water, but the company discovered through their user research that if people added egg and water, they felt more pride in their creation. This is kind of the same as what they call the Ikea effect. When you make your own furniture, you feel more attached to it. You value it more effectively.

Gautam:

This is a specific example of a much broader phenomenon. My colleague Mike Norton actually coined the term the Ikea effect when he showed that consumers prefer products they had a hand in creating. Research by Leanne Schmitt and others shows that people like the same wine more when they think it's more expensive. Why is Marine bootcamp so difficult? Because of a psychological phenomenon proposed by Leon Festinger called effort justification. People attach value to something based on how much effort it took to acquire it.

Gautam:

The very fact that it's so hard to become a Marine means that the people who undergo the experience to have to justify why they put themselves through it and they ended up concluding that it must be because being a Marine is so valuable and special. Fraternities and cults put their new members through harsh initiations for exactly the same reason. Aronson and Mills showed that this phenomenon applies in a wide variety of settings, even something as simple as a college study group. What people want, in other words, isn't always rational and can often be manipulated by skillful design of the experience. I asked Beth, "What's the most common mistake she sees people making in this process of designing for desirability?"

Beth:

Confirmation bias is probably one of the biggest ones that we see. And so you get this idea in your head that this is what the world needs. And then you tend to absorb information that confirms that and kind of shy away from information that challenges it. If I had to give one piece of advice, there's conflict is really, really important for creative collaborations to push back on each other to get to the best product, but conflict that is relationship based that diminishes any of the people involved tends to be associated with failed projects.

Gautam:

We often try to avoid conflict, especially when we're trying to get something done, but not all conflict is bad. Organizational behavior scholar Karen Chen defined three types of conflict: task, relationship, and process. A meta analysis by O'Neil [UnmcClaurner 00:16:32]. Found that task conflict can actually be productive as members of a team test and improve each other's ideas. This is particularly true if members of the team have what the great organizational psychologist Amy Edmondson called psychological safety, the sense that they can disagree without being punished for it. Process conflict, however, which involves disagreement over how the team operates and relationship conflict, which involves personalities and interpersonal interactions, can really hurt team performance. Team leaders need to manage conflict carefully because it's easy for productive conflicts over ideas to slide into toxic ones over personalities. Healthy rivalry was at the heart of Fredrick's award-winning exhibition [foreign language 00:17:14]. Rivals in Renaissance Venice, that explored how the dialogue in paintings between these three artists shaped Venetian art well into the 20th century.

Fredrick:

Venice in the mid 1500s was such a place of artistic ferment and innovation was that any one of those three guys based on their success in Venice could have gone to a quieter place, taken up a court appointment in a Ferrara or a Mantua or something and live to kind of cushy existence, but they don't. They stay in Venice. And I think the answer to that is implicit. They stayed there because they knew that being with these other two artists would keep them on their toes. They knew that being in a competitive place like Silicon Valley say would just make you a better artist, a better creator, because there were other people to keep you going. I think respect for materials, technical innovation is a big deal obviously, but the key thing about it is not just to be the first, but maybe the first successful one. And this is back what I was saying about oil paintings that Titia was not at all the first guy to do oil on canvas, but he understood the implications.

Gautam:

Fredrick is getting at another point here that I hadn't thought of before our conversation. Context, innovation, and design are profoundly driven by technological change to an extent that it's often difficult to appreciate retrospectively. If what we're after is cultivating our own tastes and understanding what makes the thing desirable to us, that idea can't be separated from the item's context. And context is shaped by the tech available to designers.

Fredrick:

What's kind of striking is in every generation, artists are eager to try something new and they don't seem to be, at least in my mind that, "Oh, we're forsaking the expertise that we've learned and all of the proper way of doing things," because if there's a new way to do something, it's not cheating. Artists and painters and sculptors loved using photographs when photography was invented in the mid 19th century. It's not cheating. It's a way of doing something new or better or more easily or more quickly.

Gautam:

Who doesn't love seeing a thing done well? John Updike wrote that the great Boston Red Sox player Ted Williams emanated the hard blue glow of excellence in everything that he did and that's why the fans worshiped him even though he never loved them back. I remember watching a video of shortstop Omar Viscal visiting the Cleveland Indians in spring training long after he retired. He was playing catch with another player. And instead of catching the ball in his glove then transferring it to his throwing hand, he would deflect the ball off the heel of his glove into the other hand and throw it back in one motion.

Gautam:

It was excellent. So casual it seemed superhuman. I was an awe of his skill with his equipment and his body. I can pick up a baseball and play catch, but I can't even imagine doing that. I think when we're looking at desirability, we can't help but be drawn to people with mastery over the materials and the technology they have at hand. Fredrick and I love going to Fenway Park together so I knew he knew exactly what I meant. I asked him where he saw that idea play in his work.

Fredrick:

Around late 1490s, the Venetians began to use oil paint, not just occasionally, but really exclusively. And so this is exciting because oil paint dries very slowly. You can do layers. It's very good for conveying things like skin and hair, right? The key thing about oil though, is you can drag a brush across the not completely smooth, but slightly textured surface of a canvas to make a broken line, right? You can make bubbles of water on a surface of a lake. You can do hair or you can do light on beautiful fabrics, clouds, leaves, trees, all sorts of things. You can get dappled effects by the way that big strokes can break down and you can layer things. You can put lighter, clearer colors over darker ones to give a particular sheen. And so this is a technological shift. Oil on canvas painting means you can do all sorts of new effects and you can make frankly sensual female nudes. You can do sunsets that actually look like a sunset. There's all sorts of things that you can convey with this technology if you decide to really push the boundaries of this oil on canvas combination.

Gautam:

But the new technology of oil on canvas paintings that took Venice by storm during the Renaissance that affects beyond changing the way paintings looked. It changed the whole art market and the role of artists in society.

Fredrick:

The other thing about it is it means an oil on canvas painting, you can paint it and then find a buyer later, right? That's the kind of beginnings of the art market we still have where an artist makes a work of art and later finds someone to purchase it. Before that, if it's a Fresco, of course it's got to be a commission. Someone has to ask you to paint on that wall.

Gautam:

To me, when I hear that with leaps out at me is it suggests that shifts in technology can generate extraordinary flowerings of creativity, ones that we still feel the effects of centuries later. And that your work on sensory substitution sounds to me like a way to stimulate that very deliberately and something that I would never even have occurred to me.

Beth:

Part of it is you can have innovations that stimulate what gets curated for other people, but also you have innovations that change what is possible for people to create themselves, right? And so I loved that example because once you don't need a commission first, you've also increased accessibility to art as a profession. And that's a really profound change in addition to the many other changes that we were just going through. If you have all of the information from each chef in its own kind of siloed book, the opportunity to learn patterns across books, it's not made easy.

Beth:

And so I think moving toward more interactive media in flavor has the potential to make it much easier for people to discover what is even possible to create with flavor as a media. And that's why I'm really interested in something like games. The invention of tools for creators or curators can dramatically change the landscape for what's possible in the future. In talking about what paints are available, that's one example. And then if you take a more contemporary example in another field of how the tools available for curation shape what is possible, you could look at what Instagram did to photography. So it made it really, really easy for novices to feel like professionals and the filters even had names, right? So in selecting the filter, you're also learning this language of photography. I think that's another example that's kind of interesting.

Gautam:

Changes in context can lead to incredible bursts of innovation. And that's not just about art or even business, it's about life. In his classic book Wonderful Life, the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould described the possibles of the Burgess Shale, which preserved animals that had evolved a little over 500 million years ago. These animals were stunningly diverse, far more so than their predecessors had been for the entire history of the planet. The Shale preserved fossils from just after the Cambrian explosion, an arrow about 541 million years ago during which the plans for virtually every modern animal body appeared in, in geologic terms, the blink of an eye after literally billions of years of relative stasis. Why? We can't be absolutely certain, but one explanation is that the environment changed. The atmosphere got more oxygen and volcanoes added calcium to the oceans, allowing organisms to build skeletons. Once that happened, an ecosystem that had seemed unchanging for eons suddenly burst into unimaginable diversity, much more in fact than we have today.

Gautam:

Change the context and you change everything. That's what's happening with tech today. It's democratizing design, making it accessible to people in a format that's user-friendly. Again, it's that user experience that's so important, but it also sets limitations. Instagram has made it easy for me to take a cute photo of my dog and just slap a filter on to make it look like it fits into this landscape of good photos. But Instagram is the one curating the filters. Users have to go outside the product to innovate further. The role of tech in design is complicated. The question that Fredrick brought up is using tech in design cheating is still a live one. When does tech overlap design innovation and when does it obscure it? It's a question Beth's researchers often bump up against in the design lab.

Beth:

A lot of people are talking about GTP3.

Gautam:

GPT3 is language model technology developed by open AI in 2020. Type in text and it will generate incredibly human text back to you matching the pattern you gave it.

Beth:

They're training it to associate visual context with words. And so in the example, you could put in avocado chair and it's actually designing chairs that don't exist. I mean, should we call it design? I don't know. It raises all these new questions, but I think creators are constantly on the pulse of what new tools are there out there that can help me push the limits of what's possible.

Gautam:

Technology around design changes constantly. It's the story of human innovation, the things we create and the things we leave behind. But I was curious about the continuities too. What has remained eternal throughout this process of innovation and design and taste development? What persists? And I think it goes back to what Beth was saying about the way that products and experiences make us feel. When I look at a painting or read a book, if it's making me feel something, I'm having a conversation across time and space with another mind, another person about the experience of being human. Even if that person's a robot. To see and be seen, isn't that what we're all after? So in the process of design and innovation, what stays the same?

Beth:

And then I think on the other side, a respect for tools and techniques and whatnot is one way to answer that. And then some things in terms of, I think what I would call meaning, I think also stay the same, right? So kind of on the user experience side of things, things that make you feel a sense of achievement or hope or exploration or belonging or self-transcendence, these are also things that I think stay the same, but new tools come available that help us access those values in new ways.

Fredrick:

You make a really good point, which I think is so interesting in discussions of art and then has to be in technology and design and creativity that it is about emotion. And it is the search for meaning.

Gautam:

Emotion, connection, the search for meaning. These are at the core of what it is to be human and are the heart of good design, an affecting painting, an entertaining film, a good book. With that in mind, I asked our guests to recommend a book that resonated with them in this way.

Fredrick:

So a book that came out about a year and a half ago, which I read just a couple months ago which I love is by Antony Beevor. And he is a British military historian. It's called the Battle of Arnhem. It's a really interesting example of thinking you have everything in place. The technology, the numbers of troops, and the momentum and then blowing it.

Gautam:

The Battle of Arnhem was a battle from Operation Market Garden, the Allied operation immortalized in the movie A Bridge Too Far. It was a disaster of ambition where the Allies attempted to end the war in 1944 by lunging across the Rhine, but were defeated despite their incredibly brave efforts. I love military history and Antony Beevor is one of the best. I'd also recommend his marvelous history of Stalingrad, surely the most important battle of the war, but one most Americans know surprisingly little about. Military histories draw many of us in. And I think one of the reasons they do is because they so powerfully describe leadership under the most difficult circumstances. That's a topic we'll revisit in future episodes. I asked Beth what books she would recommend.

Beth:

It's really hard for me to give just one. So I might give you more than one.

Gautam:

Please give more than one.

Beth:

So I think the best one at least for pairing with this conversation for me is a really kind of out there book. It has a really long title called Important Artifacts and Personal Property From the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry. And this is just a collectic book that is really set up as an auction catalog. It's by Leanne Shapton, who at the time was art director of the New York Times op-ed page. But the book is objects. It's about a fictitious couple who plausibly could be real and then the objects from their lives. And it's only just object by object, but you learn who these people were. You really learn a lot about their relationship. And it's so interesting how this book sort of asks through the prism of objects what is love?

Beth:

So I loved that book and then I mentioned Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat and the Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Doernenburg. people interested in interactive design, I think my favorite book is the Art of Game Design by Jesse Schnell. And then the last one that has really stuck out to me recently is called Invisible Women and this is really about the data gap in design. So when we don't collect data on the success of products by things like in this case gender, we sometimes don't realize how much we're under-serving some people.

Gautam:

And the other question I always have to ask is this: who would you describe as the most impressive person you know, like you could meet up for coffee or talk on the phone and why?

Fredrick:

Person that I really admire and he impresses me and surprises me quite a bit and that's Peter Weller. He's an actor. And he was famous for RoboCop and he's on lots of TV. He's also a director. Got to know him when I was living in Venice doing my dissertation research, but what so impressed me, he kind of combined the seriousness with which he took his Hollywood career with a bridging love of art history. And so over the years, he went from being a tourist to a really engaged tourist to getting his master's in art history at Syracuse and then writing a PhD for UCLA, but also because he wants to share it. And that makes him the top of the list for me.

Betht:

I would say Ben Silverman, who started Pinterest. I think the main reason is that you can tell that that kindness that extends to really listening to users. He's really genuinely interested in the people who use the product. And I think that the product is also really interesting. He and his co-founder could see that there's something universal to the act of collection and kind of collecting visual things.

Gautam:

We live in a world that puts automated curation at our fingertips, Pinterest, Netflix, Spotify. We and they determine what we value and what it means. And in looking at our collections, we see ourselves. We may joke that our Netflix accounts know us better than our friends do and that might be true. But if we are outsourcing our taste, how much is it really ours? How much are we letting it be shaped by systems we don't even understand? What are we missing because those systems are only showing us things they already know we'll like? I keep going back to what Fredrick and Beth said about how technological changes can transform taste in ways that still shape our world centuries later. We're still in the very earliest stages of the revolution in taste that will spring from modern technologies. [inaudible 00:33:23]. Might not even have been born yet or she might be posting pictures on Instagram or Pinterest right now waiting to be discovered, but taste doesn't exist in a vacuum.

Gautam:

It's a product of context. That's what Fredrick does in his exhibits. He creates the context by which we can appreciate art in a new way. It's what Beth learned tasting wine, that educating your palate can open you to entirely new vistas of taste. It's a skill we can develop for ourselves and for others. It's something we can shape in our homes and for our customers. Shaping taste is a powerful way to lead. Did Venetian aristocrats know they wanted oil paintings until Titian showed them what they could be? Did you know you wanted a phone that looked like a slab of glass until Steve Jobs and Johnny Ives showed you that you did? What are you curating to shape your own taste or that of others? What does shaping taste mean to you? Broaden my taste. Send us an email at worldreimagined@nasdaq.com or hit us up at @NASDAQ or at @GMukunda, G-M-U-K-U-N-D-A on Twitter.

Speaker 6:

World Reimagined with Gautam Mukunda, a leadership podcast for a changing world. An original podcast from NASDAQ. Visit the World Reimagined web at nasdaq.com/worldreimaginedpodcast.

 

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